Suspects belong to anti-China group
MANILA — Four military reservists were arrested after their vehicle, allegedly loaded with bombs, was discovered by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 parking grounds, on Monday, September 1.
The white Toyota Revo with the plate number WMK 129 was followed by the NBI authorities since Sunday night, August 31 after receiving information that the crew in the utility vehicle would be planting bombs in three distinct locations.
Suspects Grandeur Guerrero, Emmanuel San Pedro, and Sonny Yohanon were immediately captured after parking their car around 1:45am at the airport grounds.
NBI Anti-Organized Crime Division led by chief Rommel Rommel and senior agent Eric Isidro, retrieved six improvised explosive devices, including banned firecrackers such as Goodbye Philippines and pla-pla wrapped in round bottles with gasoline inside the vehicle manned by the men.
Along with the explosives, a .38-cal revolver and manifesto-like documents, urging the government to take a tougher stand on the territorial dispute with China, were recovered at the scene.
Threat or a just a prank?
According to an Inquirer source, Guerrero and his escorts admitted that they initially planned to set the bombs off at NAIA Terminal 3, SM Mall of Asia, and the main office of DMCI in Makati City. The three locations are linked to Chinese nationals.
SM Mall of Asia is owned by Chinese-Filipino tycoon Henry Sy, while the DMCI, a leading real estate company was earlier subjected to an investigation for allegedly employing undocumented Chinese nationals at its Calaca power plant in Batangas.
“Our purpose is only to make a wake-up call to the government about its soft stand against China and not to hurt people,” Guerrero said.
What was first thought of as bombs turned out to be large fire crackers “enhanced with gasoline.” The explosives were not crafted to kill but could cause fire and injuries to people, the source said.
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff General Gregorio Catapang swept off possibilities of “terrorism plot” in the incident and insisted that the isolated case was planned by people who only “wanted to seek attention.”
“I don’t think it was a terror attack, because you know, they were just firecrackers,” Catapang said. “I heard it was pla-pla. We were told that there were gasoline containers, but not that big.”
“We are awaiting the final report of the NBI, but as far as we are concerned it is not a terrorist attack,” the AFP official said.
Former presidential candidate behind the ‘prank’
A 2004 Presidential election candidate, apparently was leader of a group where the four men were members. Lawyer Ely Pamatong claimed that he is a leader of an anti-China group named USA Freedom Fighters of the East (USAFFE).
The group, according to Inquirer’s source who is familiar with the ongoing investigation, is compromised of a dozen or so members, described by the AFP as “attention seekers” without any potent capability to sow terror or destabilize the government.
The source, however, revealed that the investigation will not end with Pamatong.
“While [Pamatong’s group] can cause harm because people can still get injured, the quality of their group is questionable. They are mere attention seekers,” the source said.
Pamatong gained fame after his loss in the 2004 election and as a result, his supporters scattered steel spikes on EDSA, tagging him as “Boy Spike.” He is a self-acclaimed “5-star general” rank in USAFFE and an “international lawyer and spokesman” for the Nur Misuari faction of the separatist Moro National Liberation Front. General Catapang said that Pamatong has been notorious in what seems to be attention-seeking stunts.
“He is part of a continuous monitoring but he is not really a threat to us. Just so happened that he was trying to present himself as a prankster.” he said.
The former presidential hopeful alleged that Magdalo-affiliated soldiers framed up his group.
He [Grandeur Guerrero and his men] were [framed by the Magdalo faction of Senator [Antonio] Trillanes,” he said. “Kasi ito si Senator Trillanes, sa palagay ko agent yan ng China sa Pilipinas.”
Trillanes denied the allegations through a text message to ABS-CBN News, stating “that guy must be crazy but at least he betrayed the true intention of his latest stunt. This was meant to be a diversion from the ongoing investigation against VP Binay after all.”
The Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) clarified that the public should not fret.
“Airport security personnel continue to stay vigilant in their respective areas,” MIAA said in a statement.
Chief. Supt. Reuben Theodore Sindac, spokesman for the Philippine National Police (PNP), said the public has nothing to worry about, as the authorities promise to intensify security at airports, train stations and ports.
“We are hoping this is an isolated case, as the NBI leads in the probe,” Sindac said.
Chief Supt. Christopher Laxa, head of the Aviation Security Group, said security at NAIA terminals had been tightened and more officers has been assigned to roam around the premise.
(With reports from ABS-CBNnews.com, Rappler and Inquirer.net)
(LA Midweek September 3-5, 2014 Sec. A pg.1)